NYC $22 Mln Windfall Gives Online Access to Poor Students? Not Really.
From the New York Times
City officials applied for the grant last year to help close the gap that persists between low-income students and their better-off counterparts when it comes to home computer use and Internet access. They argued that focusing on sixth graders would also help address the slide in student performance that often begins when students leave primary school for middle school.
The result was the largest stimulus grant the federal government awarded for broadband adoption. “We are hoping this will be an excellent model for increasing Internet access in the home,” said Ted Brodheim, the chief information officer for the city schools.
Middle and secondary school principals can apply for funds in the coming weeks if 75 percent or more of their students qualify for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty. Schools will be judged based on their plans for integrating computer use into lessen plans. Once a school wins, every sixth grader in the building will receive a computer, whether or not he or she already has one, to avoid having to select among students.
You would think this would be instantly a big hit for the New York City Public Schools, but the spin spins out halfway into the story:
The computers will be deeded to children and their families, but their broadband access will not be free, by design. The federal government felt that requiring some financial contribution from families would increase their commitment to the program, Mr. Brodheim said. So families will pay for access at reduced rates — probably $10 to $15 a month — and after two years, the price will go up to market rates, which are now about double that.
The idea is to begin a pilot program to see if initial assistance helps increase the number of families willing to pay for broadband without government help. The city anticipates that 12,000 families will continue their access after the two years, but time will tell.
And reading further, we find out that the broadband suppliers have not been selected yet. So this could wind up being a bunch of desktop computers without internet access, just in time for summer vacation.
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